Updated on 04/27/2020, 3:00 PM EST
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has added six new symptoms to its list of symptoms for COVID-19:
- Shortness of breath or breathing difficulty
- Chills (New)
- Repeated shaking with chills (New)
- Muscle pain (New)
- Headache (New)
- Sore throat (New)
- New loss of taste or smell (New)
Even though some locations around the country are starting to relax their guidelines in response to the coronavirus pandemic, please remember the best practices to reduce the chance of spreading the virus. Click here for more information.
Experts Answer Your Questions about Coronavirus on Your Shoes, in Your Hair and on Your Mail
The CDC recommends calling your health care provider if you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.
Click here for more details from the CDC on the symptoms of COVID-19 and to access a symptom self-checker to help you make health care decisions and seek appropriate care.
This month, The New York Times asked its readers to submit questions about the coronavirus and found that readers were most concerned about the risk of bringing the virus into their homes on their clothes, their shoes, the mail and the newspaper.
Reporters turned to experts for answers about the risks associated with making essential trips outside the home and taking deliveries.
Changing clothes and showering after a trip to the grocery store
There is little need to change your clothes or to shower after going to the grocery store or pharmacy for essential reasons – as long as you continue to practice social distancing, wear a face mask and wash your hands when you return home.
Infected people’s coughs or sneezes can propel viral droplets and smaller particles through the air. But most will drop to the ground.
Small particles – floating in the air for approximately a half hour – are unlikely to come in contact with your clothes. Why? Aerodynamics, according to Linsey Marr, an aerosol scientist at Virginia Tech. “The droplets are small enough that they’ll move in the air around your body and clothing,” she said.
The risk of the virus getting in your hair or your beard
There is little risk of the coronavirus landing on your clothing. The same aerodynamics reasons that make it a small risk for the virus getting into your clothing apply to the virus getting in your hair or your beard.
Say someone infected with the virus sneezes directly onto the back of your head. It would be unlikely that those droplets would be a source of infection.
According to Dr. Andrew Janowski, instructor of pediatric infectious diseases at Washing University School of Medicine St. Louis Children’s Hospital, the risk is low. “…you have to touch that part of your hair or clothing that has those droplets, which already have a significant reduction in viral particles,” he said. “Then you would have to touch whatever part of your face, to come into contact with it.”
Shaking particles loose from your clothes and sending them into the air
A fatty membrane surrounds the novel coronavirus, which is vulnerable to soap. Washing your clothes with laundry detergent and drying them in a dryer will remove the virus, if it was there at all.
So you can stick to your normal laundry routine, and wash your clothes like you normally would.
An exception – If you are in close contact to someone who is sick, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends you wear gloves when cleaning up after the sick person.
The CDC also advices not to shake the sick person’s clothing or bedding. Wash those items in the warmest water possible and dry thoroughly.
Fortunately, the virus decays faster on fabric than on surfaces like steel or plastic.
Concerns about the virus on your mail, packages or newspaper
Experts say that getting sick from handling your mail or packages is a low risk. Currently, no documented cases exist of anyone getting COVID-19 from opening a package or reading the newspaper.
But experts warn you still need to take precautions. Dispose of the packing and wash your hands after handling mail or packages or reading the paper.
A New England Journal of Medicine study found that the virus can survive on cardboard for up to 24 hours. If you feel anxious about your mail, packages or the newspaper, you can let them sit for 24 hours before handling them.
Worries about getting contaminated by going outside to walk the dog or exercise
As always, you should practice social distancing measures when going outside to walk the dog or exercise.
According to Lidia Marowsak, professor and director of the International Laboratory for Air Quality and Health at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, “any infectious droplets exhaled outside would be quickly diluted in outdoor air, so their concentration would quickly become insignificant.”
The outdoors isn’t a problem, unless you are in a crowded place. “It is safe to go for a walk and jog and not worry about the virus in the air, and there is no need for an immediate washing of the clothes,” she said.
Wiping down shoes after a trip outside
Your shoes can hold bacteria and viruses, but they aren’t a common source of infection.
Worried about the gunk on the bottom of your shoes? If possible, you can throw them in the wash to remove viruses and bacteria.
But don’t use disinfecting wipes on your shoes. It’s a waste of a wipe and could transfer the germs from your shoes to your hands.
Click here for more expert answers to common questions about the risk of contracting coronavirus infection during your daily activities.
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